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The Seedy Saga of Don and Carole

Subject: The Seedy Saga Of Don And Carole
Sources: 1997 and 2007 St Pete Times, Carole's Diary, a Former Acquaintance

At 15, Don Lewis was a bag boy at the A&P grocery. He winked at 12-year old Gladys Cross and two years later they were married. They had four children together, three daughters and an adopted son.

At 15, Carole Stairs was a teenage run-a-way, and some say, prostitute. While still a teen, she married her first husband, Mike Murdock. Theirs was a rocky relationship which resulted in the birth of one daughter.

Don met 19-year old Carole walking along Hillsborough Avenue.  He saw her from his car, stopped, and she got in. He took her to a seedy motel. Don was 43, a stranger. Both were married. Excerpts from a diary purported to be Carole's tells the rest of the seedy saga of Don and Carole.

"This man is going to kill me, and I don't even care. I'd always been weird about not letting people touch me, especially around my throat but I didn't flinch. He rubbed my shoulders much to my surprise."

"Later he took me to a cheap motel frequented by truckers and prostitutes. He promised not to try anything and I agreed to go. He barricaded the door, brushed his teeth, and was getting ready for bed. Not wanting to get anything started, I didn't undress. He assured me that he wouldn't look, or touch, but I didn't believe him. He dug out his baggy pajamas and offered them to me. I felt ridiculous but was more comfortable in them. I fell in love with him then and there."

So Carole, married and the mother of a six-month old baby, was walking Hillsborough Avenue when she got in the car with Don, a stranger, to go to a motel frequented by prostitutes. What explanation would there be for this scenario?

"He was true to his word and we didn't have sex. I'd never been treated this way before. No one had ever cared about me without wanting something in return. I went home in the early morning."

"Don let me out a couple blocks from my house at my request. I gave him my phone number. Within half a block a big ugly man in a station wagon with a shotgun ordered me into his car. I was still dancing on clouds and didn't know what to do. The big burly man pointed the gun at me and ordered me into the car".

It's understandable that Carole would want to be let out of the car a couple blocks from her home after spending the night with a stranger in a seedy motel, but what kind of neighborhood was she living in? Big burly ugly men with shotguns? Who was watching her six-month old baby while she stayed out all night in a seedy motel with a married man? What explanation did she give her husband for her behavior?

The saga continues.

"From behind the car Don told me to run. He was on foot and had his gun out. He told the man to move on and hollered at me again to run. The man in the car began to drive off and I ran home."

Don had a gun too? Was it the 357, the gun Don said Carole took and hid from him when she threatened to kill him just two months before he disappeared forever?

"After that Don and I started seeing each other once or twice a week, and he called everyday for hours at a time. I even knitted a cushion for the earpiece of his phone."

"There was an old, beat up trailer on the lot where he worked, and this is where we would get together. I'd park in a large store lot, where Don would pick me up and I'd lay on the floor until we drove in the back of the lot."

Carole carried on her illicit affair with the married Don Lewis for almost 10 years before Gladys finally asked for a divorce in 1990 after 34 years of marriage. Did Carole ever give a thought to Don's wife or his four children in all that time? Did she have any feelings of guilt or remorse?

A year after the divorce, Don Lewis married Carole Stairs at the Polk County courthouse. She wore a tank top.

Don Lewis has been missing since August 1997. He has been declared dead and Carole Stairs Murdock Lewis is now married to Howard Baskin.

Read the Tampa Bay Times article, "The Big Cat Fight: Activism, accusations lurk behind a pet project" online now.

Note: There is a $20,000 reward being offered for information leading to the recovery of Don's body. You can remain anonymous.

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